Deep Folk

Because we are sustaining members of MPR and the pledge drive gets tedious, and because we always have some sort of music playing, I put a random CD on the other night, The Child Ballads by Anais Mitchell. I learned about it from Dale and TLGMS and Radio Heartland, and I was somewhat surprised to see Husband’s reaction to it. He was entranced by the music and stories. He charged downstairs and brought up a massive document he had printed off after purchasing the right to do so, of English Folksongs of the Southern Appalachians compiled by Cecil Sharp and Olive Campbell. Some of the Child Ballads were in that compilation.

Husband has always been fascinated by any music that has come from the British Isles to the Appalachian region, as that is the region his mother’s people from Scotland and the north and west of England, settled. We have a vast collection of old and obscure hymnals and song books that he has found on our travels and brought home. We both love folk music, but that music from that time and region holds special meaning for him. He took the The Child Ballads CD with him this week to his job in Bismarck so he could revel in it in the drive there and back.

What are you listening to in the vehicle these days? What folk music are you drawn to? Did you know Anais Mitchell wrote the lyrics, music, and book of the Broadway musical Hadestown? Why is folk music important?

49 thoughts on “Deep Folk”

  1. I listen to Pandora in my car and have it set up so that I have 20 stations each and five or six artists that play in the rotation I’m surprised with that many variations how often stuff comes around
    Randy Newman lyle Lovett Joni Mitchell The Beatles Bob Dylan John Prine Yo-Yo Ma Eva Cassidy Nancy Griffin John Prine all come around often
    There are a couple of groups suggested by friends that appear on there and my Monday night guitar group has influenced the list with more banjo and mandolin music that I had before
    And folk music to me is Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie
    Peter Paul and Mary and the Kingston Trio
    Who is the English guy who does lessons trained arrangements of full tunes heard in the UK
    They referred to his music is folk music and that’s not what I think of
    Appalachian spring with Yo-Yo Ma Edgar Meyer and who is the fiddle player? Is one of my favorite CDs
    and start and shifting back when Paul Simon turned Simon and Garfunkel from a full group into an eclectic group with tune is it veered off into jazz and rock and of course my favorite Bob Dylan departure from fog into the blonde on blonde album and the electric departure marked a turning point in folk

    I forget the other three questions but that’s enough to start the day thanks Renee I’ll give a listen to your new suggestion and report back

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I listen to it and I like it and I discovered she’s going to be playing in Saint Paul in May and I will try and get a ticket to see her play it’s a small club venue and should be wonderful

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Default car radio setting is MPR news. When that gets annoying in one way or another, I flip to MPR classical. On long road trips, we bring old CDs along to listen to if we’re not engrossed in an audiobook. Nothing special–mainly folk, rock, pop CDs from the 70s and 80s.

    Never heard of Anias Mitchell before today.

    Folk is important because it is the music of the masses. I don’t say that in a demeaning way. It exists mainly as a counterbalance to music we are told we “must” like by the powers that be–music executives, the establishment, the gatekeepers, the arbiters of taste. Also, I believe much folk music was developed on what are considered crude, simple, (sometimes hand-made) instruments like guitars, banjos, simple drums, maracas, fiddles, etc., because poor folks isolated far from culture and wealth had to make their own instruments to play their own music.

    And especially in America, folk music has long been a way to protest injustice, government overreach, and all the evils that plague society. Whether the genre has solved any of those problems is debatable, but at least most of it makes for great listening.

    Chris in Owatonna (one man’s opinion)

    Liked by 4 people

  3. I’ve mentioned this before, but I have 1000+ songs on my phone that connect via bluetooth whenever I’m driving. They’re a mix of jazz, folk, world music, blues and vintage music that shuffle through and that I have chosen.

    I’m not sure what qualifies, exactly, as folk music. Certainly the Child Ballads and the music collected by Alan Lomax qualifies and, in my collections of Celtic and British music, many of those traditional tunes are represented. I would consider the early blues musicians, certainly, as folk artists and also the singers of traditional cowboy songs and sea shanties. But where, for example, is the cut off point for blues musicians? When do they cease being folk and become simply blues?
    The boundaries are uncertain. I would consider the Carter Family to be folk artists, even though they manufactured their own music. I am less convinced that artists like Peter Paul and Mary and the Kingston Trio should be considered folk. Too commercial and inauthentic for my taste.

    Here’s a real rabbit hole if you want to explore it. Short films of many of the traditional folk artists from many regions, plus other non-musical folk material.
    I posted this link once years ago but it’s germane again:

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I’m wondering, Bill, whether the distinction between blues and folk is necessary or even helpful? I see “blues” as fitting comfortably under the umbrella of folk, which I see as a pretty broad category. If you tell me you like “blues,” I’m likely to ask what kind of blues? Which artists do you think of when you think “blues.” Likewise with jazz. If I’m filing records or CDs in a music store, these labels may be helpful, but I think they also contribute to artists getting pigeonholed. Your thoughts?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s sort of the problem I have in defining folk at all. I see it as a newish designation that lumps traditional, early blues, string bands, western music, protest music, jug band music, probably shape note music and other sacred music, world music, and some contemporary music—acoustic in character—into a vague shapeless category. Understand, I have music from all those categories that I like a great deal but I prefer more specific categories.

        I don’t favor pidgeonholing artists but when a category is as boundaryless as folk seems to be, is it really a category at all?

        To answer your question about the blues, my own differentiations are my own, but I tend to think of acoustic delta-style blues as folk blues and, for example, Chicago blues artists like Buddy Guy as electric blues or blues rock and outside my notions of folk.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. I would agree with your classification of Delta Blues and Chicago Blues. I was thinking along those lines myself, but didn’t have the time to type those thoughts out.

          Liked by 1 person

      2. blues with lightnin hopkins is folk
        stevie ray vaughn … no
        jazz with preservation hall dixieland is folky
        jazz with new age fusion not so much
        i don’t think bebop or big band is folk
        labels are a start not a finish

        Liked by 4 people

  4. I have my car radio buttons set as Chris does – FM1 set for when in the Cities and FM2 for the SE Minn. version, and then there’s a separate button for travel to La Crosse (river bluffs get in the way of signals).
    When we do any traveling, I bring out a CD case with Joni Mitchel, Paul Simon, Chris Smither, Joan Baez… It includes a few I inherited from Steve when we helped him downsize – Ali Farka Toure, Dave Moore, Dave Carter/Tracy Grammer. Oh, and some compilations I’ve made of stuff Joel had put on my iMac.

    Chris said it well about why folk music is important.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. Folk has been my favorite music genre for decades. I started with Irish and Scots folk music (love the Tannahill Weavers and Planxty!), then Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie, then international folk music like the Scandinavian stuff Northside Records was putting out, then American roots music. I don’t have a car anymore, but I usually have MPR Classical on while I’m working. I can stream music from my phone to my hearing aids, but I don’t usually do it–I’m paranoid about not hearing something I need to, plus it drains power and mine are rechargeable.

    Liked by 5 people

  6. At this moment I am listening to the sound tracks of all three LofR rings movies.
    Let me digress a bit to explain something. I think I left you hanging about my pancreas issues. Went up to Cities to have an amazing test. They knocked me out and put a instrument down my throat. It has a camera, ultrasound, and a biopsy needle on it. This was done to check the cyst growing on my pancrease. Along the way they looked at bile duct, liver, duodenum, gall bladder, left kidney, pancreatic duct and the cyst. Took a biopsy, which proved benign, as both GI drs. told me it would be. But pancreatic cysts can be dangerous and mine is growing in that direction. So I need to have an MRI every 6 months. (I have had 11 so far in my life and I am claustrophobic.) So at moment all looks good.
    But rest of my life is making me quiet.

    Liked by 4 people

      1. To Tim:
        I did not write a memoir. I wrote a collection of short stories about the Arrowhead region. I wrote a fictionalized version of my life age 4 to 18. Then I wrote a fictional novel about the land on which I grew up at the current time, not related to the reality of the land. It is also about depression and especially adolescent depression. I have never transferred any of them into a digitalized form. I do not think any of them would be worth the effort.


    1. So far I have only had to have one MRI. But I was very nervous because I am also a little claustrophobic. So I took the drug that they offered me and then I very slowly and detail by detail played the entire movie To Catch a Thief in my head scene by scene. I got done with the movie right about the time they got done with the MRI.

      Liked by 5 people

  7. I listen to lots of different things when in the car. I have presets for MPR news but these days I get stressed out listening to it. I wish there were stations like Radio Heartland. I really miss the kind of engaging, funny, insightful, musical talent that used to be on TLGMS. Now I have Apple Music and I’ve tried to figure out how to choose a random assortment of music that I enjoy without being too limited. It challenges my tech abilities and my time. It used to be so easy to set the station you like and off you go! I lose patience with technology sometimes and I don’t have an unlimited data plan so sometimes I turn that off too. I enjoy listening to audible books. My blind grandfather called them “talking” books. Someone was saying that they don’t enjoy that. I’d rather read the actual book but it is nice to listen to a book when in the car for a long drive. The narrator really matters.

    Folk music is the music of the people. It’s the music we use to express our responses to the world around us. It’s music that is approachable and playable for all. I think the Carter Family is folk music, but so is early Simon and Garfunkel and PPM. Woody Guthrie is most certainly folk, along with Pete Seeger and early Dylan. Much of roots and blues is folk music. Some music that sounds like rock and is popular is really folk. Ballads are certainly folk music. I don’t think you can be rigid about defining folk music because I think it is really music that resonates with people and that can be repeated or re-performed and passed down in different ways by different players. It has been the music that my soul responds to since I was a child.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Yes, what Krista said! And it keeps changing because folks keep changing.

      Steve mentioned several times really liking Folk Alley. I tried it and haven’t yet figured out how to tailor it to my preferences, though it may not operate that way (like Pandora?).

      Liked by 2 people

        1. I think it’s the local quality that I like. Would be nice to hear some of the iterations of City Mouse/Lost Walleye Orchestra/Fabulous Fatheads, etc, that Mike knows well. Ron Arsenault has released a marvelous new cd called Big as the Moon. I hope to hear some songs from that on Radio Heartland.

          Liked by 1 person

  8. Related: there’s good book by Scott Alarik (I think he died last year) called “Deep Community.” It describes what the folk community is like, but only to a degree. I think there is much more to it than what he presents in this book.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I drive very little, so I just listen to MPR, either the news or music station, depending on what’s on while I’m driving.

    I’m not inclined to draw firm boundaries around what defines folk music. To me it’s a flexible and ever changing genre. Much of what has been presented under the label of “folk” by singer/songwriters since the 1960 probably does not qualify as “folk” in the traditional sense, but to the extent that is has become part of my generation’s musical commentary of current events and human conditions, I think it qualifies.

    I will say this, it’s getting harder and harder for me to keep up with newcomers – last five to ten years – on the scene. So much divergent talent out there, and there’s still so much of the old stuff that I haven’t explored enough.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I cannot define folk music without reference to the songs my folks sang to us kids and I in
    turn sang to mine.
    You Are My Sunshine
    Oh Suzanne
    John Henry
    Itsty Bitcy Spider
    So the O Brother! Where art thou? Sound track is an essential.

    Liked by 5 people

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